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"Legendary quality" of Japanese-made cars overshadowed. Lexus surpassed by GM, Jaguar

4, 03. 2009

   The "legendary of Japanese-made cars" that their quality is undeniably ranked top in the world is now being overshadowed by cars made by the automakers of other countries. According to the durability and quality survey of cars for 2009 conducted by the U.S. research company J.D. Power and Associates, Buick made by and U.S. General Motors and Jaguar made by India's Tata Motors took the top places from Lexus of Toyota. Lexus, which has been ranked top for the past 14 years in a row, fell to the third place. Japanese carmakers started selling Lexus and other luxury cars on the U.S. market on a full-scale basis 20 years ago. The difference in quality between the Japanese-made cars and cars made by makers of other countries is likely to become narrower in the future, and the Japanese cars may be placed in a severer condition.

Big 3 taking steps to roll back

   The durability and quality survey by J.D. Power and Associates is conducted by asking about 46,000 people who own cars that were placed on the market three years ago on the frequency of various troubles they have had with the cars. They the makes of the cars are ranked accordingly with the results of the survey.

   According to the company, 120 cases of troubles per 100 units of Lexus cars were reported by the owners of such cars in the previous survey conducted for 2008. Such rate of troubles for the entire models of cars averaged 206, while Buick was placed sixth with 163, and Jaguar occupied the 10th place with 178 cases of troubles.

   Honda's Acura, Toyota's Prius and Carolla, and Honda's Accord and Civic, were ranked the 10th or higher places in the survey conducted in 2008. Mitsubishi's Infinity was also ranked within the overall average.

   In the study conducted in 2009, however, Lexus fell to the third place with 126 cases of troubles. Placed top was Buick of GM, which went up from the sixth place in the previous survey. Tata's Jaguar also went up from the 10th place in the previous survey. Acura, which was fifth in 2008, slid to seventh. Three Japanese carmakers occupied the top five places in 2008, but the number of the carmakers dropped to two in 2009. The number of the troubles for cars of the entire industry average 170, and Mitsubishi surpassed that number at 185.

   While the auto industry as a whole is making a progress in improving of the quality of cars, luxury American cars, including GM's Cadillac and Ford's Lincoln and Mercury, as well as those made by South Korea's Hyundai and India's Tata, are made with increasingly high quality. As a result there is less quality difference between Japanese-made cars and cars made by the makers of other countries. Such difference has been the strong point of the Japanese car industry.

More people are driving high-quality cars for longer period of time because of deteriorating economy

   Good mileage and high quality have been the sales points of Japanese cars. Less difference in the quality, therefore, means that the Japanese cars are losing superiority over other cars.

   For Americans, cars are the symbol of their success. So they tend to observe the tradition and status of their own cars even if they are a little easier to break. It is because of this reason that cars like Cadillac and Lincoln have been sold well. Japanese cars in America, before Lexus and Infinity were introduced there in 1989, had given the image as that of cheap-priced popular cars. It was thus necessary to get rid of such an image in order to sell more Japanese cars on the American market. Lexus and other luxury Japanese cars have been selling increasingly well in the United States for the past 20 years as luxury cars that can not break easily.

   J.D. Power and Associates noted that consumers are tending to choose cars that they can use longer in respect to the design, quality, engine and other aspects so that they might drive the same cars for a longer period of time to cope with the economic decline. American cars have been regarded as cars of lower quality in the past. But GM, for example, re-designed Buick in 2003, and ever since it has always been ranked within the top 10 places of the dependability survey. The less trouble, the higher possibility of increase in the sales of American cars that place emphasis on the status.

   A person in charge of the public relations at Toyota said that he knew of the survey results. "But the number of the troubles has not increased all that sharply. So we are not doing any special analysis of the survey results," he said. But the Americans who want the economy to be stimulated may have the psychological tendency to go more for American cars.

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